Over 20 years ago, I worked in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where every day I saw children in serious distress from asthma. Most got better, but some returned time and again…and a few never went home. It was heartbreaking; especially because in many cases, their distress could have been prevented.
I felt called to help children make changes that would allow them to lead active, healthy lives unencumbered by asthma symptoms – to give them and their families the knowledge they needed to take control of asthma. It was then that I transitioned my career to promote asthma education and empower communities to manage asthma. It was, and continues to be, my goal that not one more person dies from asthma.
At EPA, where I have worked for the last 13 years, that mission is shared. We have partnered with other federal agencies, national, state, and local nonprofit organizations and hundreds of communities nationwide to promote environmental trigger management as part of comprehensive asthma care.
Part of EPA’s activities include convening the National Asthma Forum; providing support to a growing network of community asthma programs; promoting community action and events during Asthma Awareness Month; and recognizing health plans, providers and communities that are addressing environmental asthma triggers with the National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.
Our most important activity, though, is empowering individuals to control asthma through education. Everyone in a community has a role in helping people manage asthma. Here are some actions you can take:
- Learn about asthma, environmental triggers and what you can do to control them.
- Plan or participate in an Asthma Awareness Month event this May.
- Talk to a nurse, the school board, the principal, the PTA or other leaders in your school district about how they can help students by controlling asthma triggers.
- Encourage your care provider to attend the National Asthma Forum.
I’ll never forget the struggles I saw in the PICU that inspired me on my path with EPA to educate and empower families affected by asthma. I hope each of you will join me in taking action. What will you do in your community to raise awareness about asthma and spread the message about comprehensive asthma management?
About the Author: Tracey Mitchell is an Environmental Scientist with the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air’s Indoor Environments Division and works on the EPA Asthma Team.